Drug detoxification (informally, drug detox) is variously the intervention in a case of physical dependence to a drug; the process and experience of a withdrawal syndrome; and any of various treatments for acute drug overdose.
Medical detoxification safely manages the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal associated with stopping drug use. However, medical detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug use. Although detoxification alone is rarely sufficient to help addicts achieve long-term abstinence, for some individuals it is a strongly indicated precursor to effective drug addiction treatment.
A detoxification program for physical dependence does not necessarily address the precedents of addiction, social factors, psychological addiction, or the often-complex behavioral issues that intermingle with addiction.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services acknowledges three steps in a drug detoxification process:
Alcohol detoxification, or detox, for individuals with alcohol dependence, is the abrupt cessation of alcohol intake, a process often coupled with substitution of cross-tolerant drugs that have effects similar to the effects of alcohol in order to prevent alcohol withdrawal.
As such, the term “detoxification” may be somewhat of a misnomer since the process need not refer exclusively to the removal of toxic substances from the body. Detoxification may or may not be indicated depending upon an individual’s age, medical status, and history of alcohol intake. For example, a young man who binge drinks and seeks treatment one week after his last use of alcohol may not require detoxification before beginning treatment for alcoholism.
Benzodiazepines such as chlordiazepoxide (Librium), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan) or oxazepam (Serax) are the most commonly used drugs used to reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms. There are several treatment patterns in which it is used.
The first option takes into consideration the varying degrees of tolerance. In it, a standard dose of the benzodiazepine is given every half-hour until light sedation is reached. Once a baseline dose is determined, the medication is tapered over the ensuing 3–10 days.
Another option is to give a standard dose of benzodiazepine based on history and adjust based on withdrawal phenomenon.
A third option is to defer treatment until symptoms occur. This method should not be used in patients with prior, alcohol-related seizures. This has been effective in randomized controlled trials. A non-randomized, before and after, observational study found that symptom triggered therapy was advantageous.
Source: drugabuse.gov, wikipedia.org